TUC WOMENS CONFERENCE 10TH – 12TH MARCH 2010 EASTBOURNE
A CENTUARY OF SOLIDARITY
On the centenary of International Women’s Day and celebrating 100 years of solidarity the TUC held their 80th Women’s conference.
Conference was opened by Annette Mansell-Green, Chair of 2009 TUC Conference.
Mary Davis, was introduced as the Chair for 2010 TUC Women’s Conference.
Mary Davis went on to deliver an inspiring speech calling on the sisters within the trade unions to carry on the mantle of struggle for equality and socialism handed down by our revolutionary predecessors in this historically significant year. 100yrs of solidarity, the centenary of International Women’s Day and also the centenary of the women’s chain makers strike. Mary went on to talk of the revolutionary women whose struggles have been an inspiration to us all, Sylvia Pankhurst, Clara Zefken who established IWD in Copenhagen 1910.
Mary drew attention to Britons ‘atrocious’ failure to ensure women’s representation in parliament and other decision making bodies. Including trade union which have a pretty poor record even though women’s membership is steady and rising it is still not in proportion and with the forth coming election looming it is essential to fight for improved conditions and to close the gender pay gap. Also, condemning the political parties slash and burn plans. Warning, that it would increase feminisation of poverty. Mary finished by urging us to unite around our agenda in the charter for women, as for us the price of progress is internally vigilant and to carry on the fight as our predecessors did.
More than 30 different trade unions attended the women’s conference some of those included were the CWU, Prospect, GMB, Unite, Equity, Unison as well as many more smaller unions each contributing in an equally important agenda.
Over the following days conference went on to cover a wide variety of issues.
Conference recognised the achievements over the past years under a labour government, including doubling of maternity pay, the introduction of the national minimum wage, family friendly policies and the equality bill, but these steps forward were over shadowed by the fact that the pay gap is still unacceptably wide, pregnant woman and new mothers are targeted by the employer for redundancy and how the lack of decent pensions had a large impact on women when they reach their older years putting many in the reality of poverty.
Linda Roy, CWU National Equality Officer, addressed conference and moved the CWUs motion on Flexible Working stating that although the government had worked towards helping in the flexibility needs of women in their working life’s the CWU felt that the government needed to keep moving forward. The CWU called on the TUC to put pressure on the government and to continue pushing for a full review of current flexible working regulations. The motion was carried unanimously.
The CWU’s Maria Exall highlighted the importance of education in unions and in the workplace, the importance of equality within the workplace but also held a fear for the future if the Tories were to gain power in the next election and where would it leave trade unions and all the hard fought steps forward, national minimum wage, maternity rights, and although the recently introduced Equality bill was welcomed it was felt that it was somewhat of a lost opportunity.
Other speakers for the CWU included Lynn Hart who seconded a motion which highlighted the appalling treatment of many women workers in call centres. Lynn also spoke to full support a motion calling for equal pay within the private sector stating that the equality bill does not address this issue and all members within the public and private sector should be treated fairly.
The CWU Vera Kelsall, supported whole heartedly the fight to protect women’s pensions bringing too conferences attention that as pensioners it is predominantly women who fall in to the poverty gap as these women have never been made aware of a credit system that allows enough contributions are made to gain the higher rate of public pension.
Conference had the pleasure of being addressed by some very important influential women who have played an integral part in the trade union movement these included South African ANC MP and Communist Party member Joyce Moloi-Moropa who spoke about her countries struggle against inequality and social deprivation yet she reported that progressive women’s organisations were helping to move forward in the fight against domestic violence and poverty. TUC deputy leader Francis O’Grady addressed conference for the first time as an official rather than a delegate and in her speech covered the much of the concerns of conference on the economy, violence against women, eroding working conditions and the rising threat of the far-right BNP. Brave NUT delegate Sally Kincaid spoke of a personal incident where her car was firebombed by fascist in2002. Going on to state, how important women’s votes are against the intolerable far-right.
The numerous fringe meetings at conference covered a wide variety of subjects including public pensions and the plight of the women of Yarl’s Wood removal centre where the survivors of rape, domestic violence abuse and sex trafficking are on hunger strike in protest against indefinite detention, separation of mothers from their children, racist abuse and other violence from guards and appalling conditions.
The final day of conference saw the announcement of the results of the ballot for TUC women’s Committee, with CWU Linda Roy gaining a place on the committee.
The announcement of the result for the TUC Women’s Conference Motion to Congress which was Unites , A Workplace Agenda for Women, a motion which earlier had been supported by The CWUs Maria Exall.
Report by Clare Drummond
Greater Manchester Amal